The Northern Arena and the Shiite Axis: Weekly Review of Events and Key Data (May 13-19)

The Lebanese arena:

War data:

In Israel, the government evacuated 43 communities located up to five kilometers from the Lebanese border. A total of about 61,000 citizens. To them were added several thousand more who decided to evacuate independently.

It should be noted that not all Israeli communities have been totally evacuated, and there is still a civilian presence. This is because these communities rely on tourism and agriculture. Farmers come to work on the land, in the orchards, tending to cow and goat herds. Furthermore, some of the communities’ industrial plants are still operational and employ workers from non-evacuated areas. In addition, some of the evacuees returned independently.

The Israeli government has extended the evacuation period until the summer of 2024 (July/August 2024).

Hezbollah has caused the death of 8 Israeli civilians and one agricultural worker with foreign citizenship so far. A total of 9 civilians were killed.

Over the previous week, 95 attacks were carried out along the northern border. Hezbollah claimed responsibility for 60 of these strikes, which included high-trajectory missiles (including Grad and Burkan), anti-tank missiles, and an attack using an armed UAV that fired two S5 rockets.

The Islamic resistance in Iraq claimed responsibility for one UAV strike on Israel’s northern border, aimed at the Haifa refineries.

No responsibility was claimed for 34 incidents, all UAV infiltrations.

Prominent launching and shooting incidents against Israel:

(May 13) Hezbollah allegedly fired at least two UAVs toward an Iron Dome battery. The UAVs exploded in the Beit Hillel area, resulting in a fire that was extinguished a short time later.

(May 13) Launching of anti-tank missiles toward the Yiftah area. Four soldiers were wounded. According to Hezbollah, it was aimed at a Merkava tank.

(May 14) Almas anti-tank missiles were fired at the community of Adamit, killing an Israeli civilian and wounding 5 other soldiers. In addition, one of the missiles hit the cable of an Israeli observation baloon, causing it to detach and land in Lebanon

(May 14) Hezbollah fired anti-tank missiles at the communities of Malkiya and Avivim, in response to IDF attacks in southern Lebanon.

(May 15) Approximately 80 Grad rockets were fired in the direction of Mount Meron and Burkan rockets were fired toward Upper Galilee. According to Hezbollah, targeting military bases in response to the elimination of senior Hezbollah operative Hussein Ibrahim Makki (Southern Front intelligence officer).

Above: Rocket fire toward Mount Meron

(May 15) Hezbollah launched two suicide UAVs into Israeli territory. One reached the Golani Junction region, striking a critical security installation where a warning and monitoring balloon (the “Tal Shamayim” system) was deployed. The distance from the Lebanese border, in a direct aerial line, is around 40 kilometers. According to Hezbollah, this attack was another response to the elimination of senior Hezbollah operative Hussein Ibrahim Makki.

(May 16) Hezbollah fired about 60 Grad rockets at military bases in response to IDF attacks on a compound manufacturing and storing precision weapons south of Baalbek.

(May 16) Hezbollah launched an attack UAV, claiming it was armed with two S5 rockets fired at Metula. Three soldiers were wounded.

Above: The figures for the S5 rocket as published by Hezbollah’s combat media arm: diameter (55 mm), range (4 km), weight (5 kg), unguided missile that runs on solid fuel. For further information, see the article: Hezbollah makes use of UAV rocket launching capabilities for the first time.

(May 16) Heavy Burkan rockets were fired at the Shlomi area. According to Hezbollah, toward a military base.

Video of a Burkan rocket fired toward the vicinity of the city of Shlomi. Taken from social media (credit: unknown).

(May 16) Hezbollah claims responsibility for a UAV attack on industrial military facilities affiliated with the Israeli Ministry of Defense. According to Hezbollah, the factories specialize in manufacturing electronic systems.

(May 17) Hezbollah launched approx. 75 Grad rockets, dozens of which were intercepted, at the Golan Heights (according to Hezbollah, toward military bases).

Video: Documentation of rocket explosion near the city of Katzrin. Taken from social media (credit: unknown).

Hezbollah casualties:

Over the past week, a statement was released reporting 7 Hezbollah military operatives killed.

In addition, a Jama’ah al-Islamiyya in Lebanon operative was also killed. Their vehicle was attacked in Majdal Anjar, near the border with Syria.

As of October 8, 2023, a total of 304 Hezbollah operatives have been killed. Most of the operatives killed live south of the Litani River (198 operatives killed, constituting 65% of all the operatives killed). Many Hezbollah operatives and their families live in southern Lebanon near the border with Israel. They operate in southern Lebanon as part of Hezbollah’s geographic units (Nasser/Aziz) and Hezbollah’s designated units (Radwan unit), while assimilating into the civilian population (human shield tactics).

Prominent airstrikes in Lebanon:

(May 14) Hussein Ibrahim Makki, a senior field commander in Hezbollah’s Southern Front and the unit’s intelligence officer, was killed in an airstrike near Tyre. Throughout the conflict, Hussein was in charge of planning and carrying out several terrorist assaults against the Israeli home front.

Above: Hossein Makki alongside Mohammad Reza Zahedi, commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force killed in April 2024 in Syria
YouTube player
In the video: A brief introduction to the area where Hussein Ibrahim Makki was assassinated, near the city of Tyre.

(May 16) In response to the launch of UAVs at the Golani junction security facility, an airstrike was conducted on a compound located between the mountains in the eastern Bekaa Valley, between Nabi Chit and Brital, south of the city of Baalbek. The complex most likely produced and stored precision weapons. Keep in mind the compound’s closeness to the Syrian border, as well as the Iranian weapons corridor routes (shown in red). The Bekaa Valley serves as a logistical home front for Hezbollah, as well as a location for strategic systems and infrastructure deployment. Weapons and ammunition depots, manufacturing and development facilities, ballistic missile deployment, and UAV arrays, some of which have not yet been seen in the present conflict.

Video of attack on Baalbek

(May 16) An attack on a car near the village of Qana in southern Lebanon killed Muhammad Hassan Ali Fares. Fares was born in Beirut in 1990 and graduated from Tehran University with a PhD in robotics and machine intelligence. Note his various researches that deal with targets.

(May 17) South of Sidon in the Zahrani region. A parallel attack against two targets: The first, is a building in an agricultural area used to store Hezbollah’s air defense system weapons (Sayyad 2 – surface-to-air missiles See article on Sayyad 2 surface-to-air missiles). The second target was a vehicle in the adjacent village of Najjarieh, reportedly carrying a senior member of Hezbollah’s air unit.

(May 17) An attack on a vehicle near the main border Syria-Lebanon crossing, killed Sharhabil Ali al-Sayyed (Abu Amro), a senior operative in Jama’ah al-Islamiyya, operating under Hamas, Lebanon. Al-Sayed was involved in terrorist activities against Israel in the eastern sector of southern Lebanon. According to an official announcement, Hamas “took ownership” of al-Sayed as a Hamas operative. Jama’ah al-Islamiyya in Lebanon operates fully under the auspices of Hamas Lebanon completely affiliated to them.

Hezbollah – General:

(May 13) Nasrallah’s speech commemorating 8 years since the death of Mustafa Badr al-Din (Mughniyeh’s successor, killed in Damascus in 2015):

Nasrallah emphasizes in his address that one of the goals of the October 7 assault was to reintroduce the neglected Palestinian problem on the world table. Protests at American and European campuses, the attitude of many UN nations asking for a ceasefire, and the failure of Saudi Arabia and Israel to finalize a normalization deal before the attack are all indications of its success.

Another achievement of the resistance’s aims is to harm Israel’s reputation across the world. Before the October 7 attacks, the world saw Israel as “the only democratic country in the Middle East,” but now it is known for “murdering women and children and violating international law.” This impression compelled the United States and other nations to elevate the subject of establishing a Palestinian state as the sole solution to the Palestinian conflict.

Nasrallah continues to build the resistance front’s narrative of triumph, stating that Israel’s “failure” in the battle is reflected in the harm done to the Israeli public’s faith in the state and the army, which fails to provide citizens with peace and security. He bases his conclusions on Israeli public opinion polls on the conflict and its aims, demonstrating that 30% of residents believe Israel is not a habitable nation. He also stated that the military operation in Rafah was meant to provide a picture of victory for Israel, but that it would not induce the Palestinian people to abandon their resistance. According to Nasrallah, Israel now has two options: return to discussions with Hamas, which he thinks would result in Israel’s utter defeat, or continue fighting a war that will cause its erosion and fatigue.

Regarding Hezbollah’s strikes on Israel, Nasrallah stated that the front in southern Lebanon was inextricably linked to the front in Gaza. As a result, a truce in Gaza is required to bring the war in southern Lebanon to a conclusion. Nasrallah then addresses the northern Israeli people who have been evacuated from their homes, inciting them against the government and telling them that they must put pressure on the government to cease the war in Gaza.

Nasrallah also addressed the situation of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. According to him, the United States, Europe, and the international community are accountable for the displaced people, providing them with economic assistance. The solution is to put pressure on the Americans who are preventing refugees from returning and ask the Syrian government to take them back. Nasrallah ended by emphasizing that “when we have the components of power, we can impose our conditions because we live in a world that understands only the logic of force.”

(May 15) Nasrallah met with a Hamas delegation headed by Khalil al-Haya. The meeting dealt with the issue of the war in Gaza. In addition, they dealt with the issue of negotiations and international political positions, as well as student protests around the world.

(May 19) According to sources close to Hezbollah, over the years it has become difficult to find a replacement for Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah’s former military commander. The sources noted that about 6 people are carrying out missions that in the past were under Mughniyeh’s role (Lebanese news website LEBANON 24).

Lebanon – General:

(May 13) The Supreme Shi’ite Islamic Council of Lebanon has filed a criminal complaint against Shaden Faqih, a Lebanese stand-up comedian, for mocking Muslim Friday prayers. She was charged with blasphemy. The council argued that Faqih’s words were instigating and undermining public order and interfaith ties in the country. Opposition to Faqih’s words was also voiced by lawmakers and Hezbollah supporters on social media, with some even going so far as to protest it.

Faqih, a Lebanese Shiite, is a well-known LGBT rights activist in Lebanon and a vocal Hezbollah opponent. Human rights activists defended Faqih for infringing freedom of expression. This is not Faqih’s first court appearance; in 2021, she was summoned by a military court on allegations of “insulting” Lebanon’s internal security personnel and “damaging” their reputation. Faqih receives a lot of attention, mostly because she is viewed as a danger by Hezbollah and its followers. This is another illustration of Hezbollah’s capacity to impose influence over the country’s political and religious systems, thereby repressing its opponents.

(May 14) Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun met in Doha with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani. They discussed Qatar’s economic and logistical support for the Lebanese army, which enables it to continue its central role in maintaining Lebanon’s security and stability, given the current critical circumstances in Lebanon. In addition, General Aoun met with the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Defense Affairs, Dr. Khalid bin Mohammed Al Attiyah, and other senior officials and officers and discussed cooperation between the two sides and common interests.

Above: Lebanese Army Commander General Joseph Aoun (left) with Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Rahman al-Thani (right)

(March 14) Amid rising tensions in Lebanon between Lebanese civilians and Syrian refugees, 150 refugee families voluntarily returned to Syria through the Jusiyah border crossing near Homs.

(May 16) Following a failed rocket launch by one of the Palestinian organizations from Lebanon, a Syrian refugee was killed, and three others were wounded in Al-Mansouri (the coastal area south of Tyre).

According to the IDF’s Arabic Spokesperson, Lt. Col. Avichai Edrei, more than 16% of all rocket shells launched by Hezbollah and its allies since the beginning of the current conflict have failed, resulting in loss of life and property in Lebanon. In the last month alone, Lebanon has launched 75 failing rockets.

(May 16) The Lebanese army raided the Shatila Palestinian refugee camp near Beirut, seizing a considerable number of different narcotics as well as weaponry (military weapons and ammunition). During the raid, an exchange of fire occurred, resulting in the death of one of the wanted individuals. Thirty-seven persons involved in drug trafficking in Beirut and surrounding regions were detained.

Above: The narcotics and weapons seized by the Lebanese army

(May 17) Various assertions have emerged claiming that Hezbollah has a network of tunnels in southern Lebanon that connects several districts. Hezbollah uses them to operate covertly, protecting its operatives from UAV attacks and surveillance. The tunnels serve as a supply line that is directly connected to field operations rooms that manage the transfer of weapons and missiles based on time and necessity, as well as the movement of military personnel.

See our report on Hezbollah’s strategic tunnels

The Syrian arena:

Syria – General:

(May 17) Awad Ahmad al-Masa’eed, a narcotics dealer linked with Hezbollah east of Daraa, has been killed, according to reports. Al- Masa’eed, nicknamed “Escobar Khoran,” is regarded as one of the most significant individuals in drug trafficking and smuggling. Al- Masa’eed is also reported to have links to Hezbollah commanders and Syrian regime security forces personnel. The Syrian dictatorship and Hezbollah manage a network of drug smuggling from Syria to Jordan and the Arab Gulf region, where they generate billions of dollars each year.

See our report on the drug industry in southern Syria

Shiite Axis – General:

(May 19) Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and several other members of the president’s entourage are killed in a helicopter crash in northern Iran. In our estimation, Raisi’s death will not affect the operative conduct of Iran or Hezbollah, since the strategic directive comes from the supreme leader as the fact that a lot of the weapons supplied to Hezbollah and other proxies are already in place.

Attached is an article we published when Raisi was elected president

Above: Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi (left) and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (right)

The most recent attack on US bases in Iraq and Syria, officially reported by US Central Command, took place on February 20. According to various reports, the attacks on the American bases stopped due to direct Iranian instructions to the Shiite militias, against the background of secret agreements between Iran and the United States.

Since then, according to several local indications, several airstrikes have been carried out against American bases in northeastern Syria. Although we believe that there were indeed airstrikes, the US Central Command has not confirmed these attacks as it did before February 20.

This week (May 13-19) the Islamic resistance in Iraq claimed responsibility for 8 attacks against Israel. No further indications of attacks were reported.

Video: Documentation of an attack on a “vital target in Eilat” using Al-Arfad UAVs published by the Islamic resistance in Iraq for the first time.

The Al-Arfad is a suicide UAV operated by the Shiite militias in Iraq.

It carries a strong resemblance to the Houthi-operated Sammad 2/3 UAVs, and it is estimated both originated from Iran. Some assessments claim both are based on the Iranian KAS-04, originally produced by the Iranian KIPAS company.

The Al-Arfad has a single rear-mounted piston engine and a distinct V-shaped tail. Its operational range is estimated at over 1,000 km (most likely 1,500 km). The Sammad series UAVs carry an 18 kg warhead, and it is estimated the Al-Arfad carries a similar size warhead.

(May 15) The Jordanians reported that last March two Hamas-affiliated operatives had been detained for smuggling Iranian weapons through Syria into Jordanian territory. The weapons were sent by pro-Iranian militias in Syria to a cell affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan, which has ties to Hamas’ military-terrorist wing. The squad operatives were recruited by Saleh al-Arouri, who was responsible for all activity (especially terrorist activity) in the Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria and was eliminated in early January 2024.

The report did not specify what operation the squad operatives had planned but noted that it could have destabilized Jordan. This is especially so because Jordan hosts an American military base on its territory and borders Israel.

The assessment in Jordan is that Iran and its allies, including Hamas and Hezbollah, are recruiting young Muslim Brotherhood supporters to establish an armed pro-Iranian network in Jordan. Over the past year, Jordan has repeatedly announced that it had thwarted numerous attempts to smuggle weapons and drugs carried out by infiltrators linked to pro-Iranian militias in Syria.

Yemen – Houthi-land:

During the past week, coalition forces managed to strike 5 UAVs ready to be launched by the Houthis.

During the past week, the Houthis carried out 3 airstrikes.

(May 16) Houthi forces declared intercepted an American MQ9 UAV in Ma’rib province. According to the Houthis, this is the fourth time they have succeeded in intercepting an American UAV as part of their attacks against American forces in support of the war in Gaza.

Above: The remains of the intercepted UAV as posted on social networks

(May 19) Houthi forces launched an anti-ship ballistic missile in the Red Sea region that struck the Panama-flagged oil tanker MT WIND. There was minor damage, and the ship continued its way without casualties.

Since October 2023, there have been 149 Houthi shooting incidents.

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